Eurozone finance chief plays down Greek fears

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The Independent Online

Greece will not leave the eurozone unless the country "totally refuses" to fulfil any of its reform targets, one of Europe's most influential politicians said in advance of the latest Greek plea for leniency from its austerity programme.

Jean-Claude Juncker, right, who heads the Eurogroup collection of eurozone finance ministers and is also the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, expects Greece to step up its efforts to fulfil its reform targets.

"(An exit) will not happen, unless Greece were to violate all requirements and not to stick to any agreement," Mr Juncker said in an interview with an Austrian newspaper.

"In case of such total refusal by Greece with regards to budget consolidation and structural reform, one would have to look into the question."

Antonis Samaras, the Greek Prime Minister, is this week expected to propose a two-year extension to budget cuts that have been imposed by international lenders. On Friday, he meets the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose voters are reluctant to help heavily-indebted Greece out further.

The talks come as the eurozone teeters on the edge of recession even as the dominant German economy continues to expand. Output across the 17-member currency bloc fell by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2012. Separately, Greece reported last week that its GDP was a full 6.2 per cent smaller than the second quarter of 2011.